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Amy Klobuchar’s mission in Nevada: ‘I have to get people to know me’

Amy Klobuchar
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar addresses Latino activists in North Las Vegas, Nev., on Thursday evening.
(Associated Press)

Amy Klobuchar wants to hire you. How soon can you start?

As the senator and presidential hopeful enjoys an image bounce from her surprise third-place finish in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, she is pouring staff and cash into Nevada, where she faces a daunting challenge to replicate her success in the Granite State.

Her success has come so suddenly that her campaign appears to be somewhat unprepared for the next nominating contest in Nevada, if Klobuchar’s unusual public call for new hires on Thursday is any indication.

“We are surging, our campaign is gaining momentum every day, and we want you to join us!” Klobuchar wrote in a tweet Thursday night promoting dozens of paid positions on her campaign — including communications and field organizer jobs in Nevada, which will hold caucuses on Feb. 22.

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In her first appearance in front of a Nevada audience since the New Hampshire race, Klobuchar joked about her new environs as a Minnesota senator who had just wintered in Iowa and New Hampshire might.

“I’m very excited to be in Nevada. I’m very excited to be in Las Vegas. I’m very excited to be somewhere where it’s warm,” Klobuchar told a crowd of more than 100 at the University of Southern Nevada during a presidential forum hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens, known as LULAC, a Latino advocacy group.

When an audience member questioned Klobuchar about her electability in a more diverse state like Nevada, Klobuchar acknowledged that she did not come from a place with many Latinos, and that she had some catching up to do.

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“I have to get people to know me,” Klobuchar said, noting that a recent influx of donations had allowed her to start broadcasting ads in Nevada. “I have to get that information out there, [and] I have to get the support and people turning out.” She said that Latina lawmakers from Minnesota who had endorsed her would soon arrive in Nevada to promote her.

Klobuchar also deployed one of her stump-speech staples from the Iowa campaign, saying, “The Midwest is not flyover country. I live there.” The line landed with a thud with the Nevada audience.

In perhaps one of the more obvious signs of Klobuchar’s rising fortunes, fellow candidate Pete Buttigieg took a dig at Klobuchar’s record at the presidential forum.

“I’ve heard some people say that, you know, my experience is not relevant because you have to have Washington experience in order to become a president,” Buttigieg said, referencing Klobuchar’s repeated criticisms of his limited political experience as the former mayor of South Bend, Ind.

Not mentioning Klobuchar by name, Buttigieg nonetheless criticized her 2018 vote to confirm Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, who he criticized for “the horrifying conditions” migrant children faced in camps.

It’s a whole different Democratic presidential race in Nevada, where union members and voters of color are a large part of the electorate.

Klobuchar urged the crowd to bring companions to their caucuses next weekend.

Interviews with voters at the events showed that Klobuchar’s notable performance in the New Hampshire debate and her strong finish in the primary have carried over to Nevada and sharpened their interest in her.

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“I think Joe Biden was originally my choice; he was going to bring us to the promised land,” said Stuart Rubin, a 62-year-old Las Vegas retiree, as he held a green Klobuchar sign. “Now other people are stepping up around him.”

Of Klobuchar, Rubin said: “Let’s give her a shot. ... I’m going to read up more about her.”

Babs Daitch, 76, a Las Vegas tour guide, held her Biewer terrier named Buckette as she listened to Klobuchar speak, and came away impressed.

Babs Daitch, a Las Vegas tour guide, is impressed with Amy Klobuchar.
Babs Daitch, 76, a Las Vegas tour guide, is impressed with Amy Klobuchar.
(Matt Pearce / Los Angeles Times)

“I’ve been for Buttigieg, and I’ve been saying my second is Elizabeth Warren,” Daitch said. But after seeing Klobuchar, she said she “would probably vote for her.”

Scott Justes, a 58-year-old Las Vegas independent who works in finance and sales, said he’d been planning to sit out the Democratic primary until he saw Klobuchar’s performance in New Hampshire.

“I liked her before,” Justes said, “but it’s hard to back someone you know is going to lose for sure, but now she’s giving me the impression she’s going to win.”

The field of Democrats vying to be the 2020 nominee is narrowing. Here are the candidates.
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